Doyle the fall guy as pressure mounts

AS signings go, few if any better that of Kevin Doyle in Mick McCarthy’s time at Wolves.

So, how ironic then, that he of all people should have the misfortune to inadvertently contribute to cranking up the pressure on his manager once again.

Leading by a goal thanks to Stephen Hunt’s penalty, Wanderers were on course to record a third successive home victory for the first time ever in the Premier League.

Then Robert Huth’s free-kick took a wicked deflection off Doyle’s outstretched leg and spun agonisingly beyond the reach of the wrong-footed Wayne Hennessey and, in that moment, the match was turned on its head.

What could have been a victory instead became a defeat when Peter Crouch headed home with 20 minutes remaining and, coupled with Wigan’s surprise point against Chelsea, this was another dark day for McCarthy and his team.

They now find themselves being sucked ever closer to the relegation zone and currently, the gap stands at a solitary point.

A positive result against Norwich tomorrow night is now imperative for McCarthy — otherwise Wolves could find themselves spending Christmas in the bottom three.

McCarthy, however, found support from his opposite number.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis said: “Mick is a very good manager and a good man. What he needs now is a good chairman.

“Good chairmen stick with their managers when things are not going so well. It’s a big test for the chairman now.

“Mick will stick in there. Don’t worry about him. The chairman and the chief executive need to show Mick the faith he has shown this football club.

“He has done a fantastic job. They will be alright. They showed again the quality they have, they just need a little bit of luck.”

Fortune was certainly not with Wolves on this occasion.

Already on a booking, Jonathan Woodgate could count himself extremely lucky to escape without a second yellow card when he gifted Wolves a penalty for a reckless tackle on the excellent Matt Jarvis, who justified McCarthy’s recent declaration that he is back to his best.

Hunt kept his cool by tucking away the resulting 17th-minute penalty to give the home team a deserved lead.

Realising just how fortunate his team were, Potters manager Pulis withdrew Woodgate just two minutes later with Jermaine Pennant introduced and Ryan Shotton moving back to right-back. Immediately Stoke looked a better team.

Pennant created their best chance of the first half when he crossed for Matthew Etherington but his fellow winger’s scuffed shot was easily saved by Wayne Hennessey.

Hunt almost notched a second when he curled agonisingly wide after 54 minutes and Wolves paid dearly four minutes later.

Roger Johnson was harshly penalised for a challenge on Jonathan Walters and, Wolves’ rotten luck continued as Huth’s low strike deflected in off Doyle.

It was abject defending, however, which cost them a point when, in the 70th minute, Crouch stole in ahead of Stephen Ward at the back post to head home Etherington’s cross and make it four successive Premier League wins for the Potters — the first time in their history.

Wolves midfielder Karl Henry said: “We thought we were going to go on and get a massive three points. No one can say we played poorly but it’s all about results. It puts more pressure on us against Norwich.”

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